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News :: Labor
Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
From health care workers to janitors to public employees, Boston is poised to be the battleground for major contract fights this summer. Thousands of union sisters and brothers will be throwing the bosses' backs against the wall to demand better contracts and the dignity they deserve.

From health care workers to janitors to public employees, Boston is poised to be the battleground for major contract fights this summer. Thousands of union sisters and brothers will be throwing the bossesí backs against the wall to demand better contracts and the dignity they deserve.


On May 18, over 100 nurses, housekeepers, and nursing assistants walked off the job at the Benjamin nursing home in the Mission Hill. The one-day strike kicked off a major campaign for improved staff, benefits, wages, pensions, and general sense of dignity and respect for the vital work that they perform. It was a taste of larger things to come as contracts have expired at 19 nursing homes in an around Boston represented by SEIU local 2020.

Despite a 2% budget increase in June of 2003 and an addition $290 million per year in from the new ìbed-taxî passed in September of 2003, most nursing homes continue to claim that they donít have the resources to pay a living wage or increase benefit coverage. Those who provide direct health care to others cannot afford their own and often times cannot make ends meet. Adding insult to injury, the largely Haitian workforces are often prohibited from speaking Creole while working or even while on break. Things will come to a head on June 2, when the Benjaminís workers will go back out on strike indefinitely, this time joined by 11 additional nursing homes.

Another healthcare strike looms in Jamaica Plain as over 300 registered nurses at Faulkner Hospital, working without a contract since October, have authorized a strike after months of fruitless negotiation sessions. Faulkner is owned by the Partners Health Care Corporation which made over $28 million in profit last quarter. The major issues are wages and benefits that are not on par with other Partners facilities, unsafe staffing ratios, and ìfloating.î Floating is an extremely dangerous practice where nurses are forced to work in areas where they have not been trained to use the sophisticated equipment or read specialized monitors.

Thus far union action has been limited to a one-day informational picket on March 29th, but a continued stonewall approach by the hospital has made a mid-June strike inevitable. The continued practice of floating has made it apparent that Faulkner is not concerned about the safety of its patients or staff, and will not hesitate to operate with unqualified scab agency nurses should the strike happen. The nursesí success will depend on their ability to mobilize labor and community support, and to convince workers that arenít in the RN bargaining unit to refuse to take on additional work that would normally be performed by a nurse, thus making the hospital ëinoperableí.


Across town, union janitors are bringing their fight to the doorstep of the rich in their battle with the law-breaking, non-union contractor Commercial Cleaners. In their attempt rectify a sweetheart deal made by the corrupt former president of SEIU local 615, in which only half of the workers were included and significant improvement were nowhere to be found, the largely El Salvadorian workforce has gone forward with an aggressive campaign for a new contract that benefits everyone.

Commercial Cleaners pays its workers an average of $8 an hour while they clean some of the most obnoxiously swanky hotel and condominiums in the city. The pay is about $3 an hour less than most union janitors make, and full time employees do not receive benefits. They have authorized a strike after the firing of one union militant and the reduction in hours of other active union members, and they have filed at least 5 unfair labor practice charges against the company in the past 2 months.

To date, local 615 members have been working closely with the Jobs with Justice Solidarity Committee, which includes local anarchist support, and groups like the ìBillionaires for Bushî to organize rallies and actions targeting the Ritz Carlton. The multimillion dollar Ritz condos house many of Bostonís rich and elite. Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez, one of the Ritzís tenants, has been called out to show his support for the campaign, and hundreds of Sox fans signed post cards asking him to do so. Thus far, not a peep has come from Manny, but it looks like the bad press and constant ruckus out front may be getting to the Ritzís brass.

Local 615 is optimistic that the Ritz may soon pull their contract with Commercial Cleaners, which could set a trend for others who use the company, but at this point a strike still looks like a certainty for the early summer.


As we draw nearer to the Democratic National Convention, the headaches for Boston's Mayor Tom Menino only seem to get worse and worse. Security costs running millions of dollars over budget. The forced closure of major highways, city streets and train stations. Unruly street protests expected to shadow the week's events. And, perhaps most serious, the nasty contract fight with the city's public employee unions, which threatens to disrupt the entire convention.

Custodians, firefighters, sewer workers, school bus drivers, social service providers, parks services, and others have vowed to step up their fight against the Mayor's refusal to negotiate pay raises and new contracts for city workers, and now unions are threatening disruption of the DNC as a means of leverage to force through their demands.

It is a labor dispute that has dogged the city for months, with the mayor blaming the "stubbornness" of the unions for the failed negotiations, and most union leaders maintaining that Menino is refusing to negotiate contracts so that he can spend the cityís estimated $400 million in surplus revenue on this summerís convention (often referred to as "Tom's Party").

In January, over 5,000 people mobilized to embarrass the mayor on the night of his 'State of the City' address. Angry workers waved signs, chanted, hollered, and spit at politicians and assorted dignitaries who crossed the pickets. At one point during the evening, dozens of anarchists and rank-and-file union members attempted to block the entrance of the security perimeter, only to be shoved back behind the barricades by police. Protesters shouting "No contracts, no peace!" broke into chants of "No contracts, no convention!"

"After tonight, the day of reckoning is coming," said Lou Mandarini, president of the Greater Boston Labor Council, to roaring applause. "There will be no work done on this convention until [Menino] negotiates fairly and treats us right." Despite the recent settlement reached by the city with AFSCME and the Boston Teachers Union (two of the larger unions involved in the dispute), protests and rallies in support of the remaining union workers without contacts have continued unabated.

With construction set to begin at the FleetCenter (site of the DNC) on June 8, committee officials have desperately tried to persuade the Greater Boston Labor Council to sign a 'no-strike guarantee' covering construction and related work for the convention. So far the Council has refused to sign any such agreement until the city settles the remaining contracts. However, the Building and Construction Trades Council has reportedly turned their backs on any such show of solidarity, offering to provide scab labor to ensure the work is completed on schedule. Unfortunately for convention organizers, an agreement with only the building and construction trades will not cover other convention-site work, including telecommunications wiring and bus-driving services.

There are a number of potential scenarios of how this labor dispute will eventually play out come time for the DNC. As it currently stands, various unions are going forward with plans for work slow-downs, disruptive pickets, and public rallies during the convention. You can bet that anarchist workers will be more than happy to show solidarity in their fight against the city bosses and their political allies among the Democrats. See you in the streets!


This article is a preview of the debut issue of "Strike!"

Strike! is a tabloid newspaper covering the ever important struggles of working people in the Northeast and across the world. From community and workplace resistance, to the fights against racism and sexism as well as international turmoil, the struggles that rock your world are brought to you here with a fresh anarchist-communist perspective.

Strike! is the English-language agitational publication of the Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC). We are bilingual federation of revolutionaries who identify with communist tradition in anarchism. Our activity in the last few years has focused around radicalizing the broad struggles of our class, in the streets, in our workplaces and in our neighborhoods.

Strike! has come to exist after a long process of rethinking our agitational publications following the end of Barricada magazine, which for a time was a NEFAC affiliated magazine.

In this issue of Strike!, you will find articles on rank and file labor struggles, tenant union organizing, eco-racism, indigenous struggles, and direct action in the streets! Plus, there is a regular column about GI resistance within the military, and a pro-queer/feminist advice column.

Strike! can be obtained in most large cities in the Northeast. NEFAC members will be making a special efffort to have it available in community centers, left bookshops and at picket lines and demonstrations.

Bulk orders and subscriptions can be made with the Stelton Anarchist Collective: PO BOX 3107 New Brunswick, NJ 08903, or contact: skip (at)

For letters to the editor, content questions, submissions, and press exchanges, contact Class Action at: classaction (at)

Also, brand new issues of NEFAC's other publications (The Northeastern Anarchist, Ruptures and Cause Commune) are set to hit the newstands very soon!
See also:

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Re: Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
what about the cops..????
Re: Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
word on the underground is that the cops will settle before the DNC. maybe only the night before, but rumor is they will certainly settle.
Re: Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
since this was written many of the public employee unions have settled their contracts as have the faulkner nurses and most of the seiu nursing homes.
Re: Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
"Custodians, firefighters, sewer workers, school bus drivers, social service providers, parks services, and others"

The cops would fall under "and others". Since they are enemies and traitors of the working class, their particular contract dispute with the city does not deserve any support or publicizing from the anarchist press.
Re: Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
Billionaires for Bush support SEIU Local 615? Honestly, why would we do a thing like that? The Billionaires visited the Ritz at one point to express our strong support for those under attack by "economic justice" advocates. After all, inequality begins at home, and while we trust our man in the White House to keep bringnig us the big bucks, we need the help of other wealthy allies (a small number of them, of course) to keep our profits up.

Ain't no power like the power of the money,'cause the power of the money don't stop!
Re: Boston Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!
08 Jul 2004
I have to say I think it's a cop out (no pun intended) not to mention the police strike at all in the article, especially since it's connected with the strike by the other city employees. I'm not saying you should support the cops or anything, but the article should mention it as something of a complicating factor. And much of local labor (such as the Greater Boston Labor Council) does support the cops. This too needs to be addressed.
Menino...Leader Or Jester?
08 Jul 2004
Menino is one idiot mayor. This clown needs to be voted out next election. Not only is he making himself look like an idiot. He is blowing the chance of a lifetime to make the next President look good on national smellivision.
Two thumbs down on Menino!